El tambor de sarga. José Miguel Pereñíguez
On a square stage, entered from a side walkway, there is a group of musicians and a few masked actors. The play is very old. A courtesan has given instructions for a drum to be hung from the laurel situated in the centre. Instead of leather, the drum is covered with a piece of stretched serge. If her aging suitor can get the drum to make a sound, she will agree on a rendezvous. But the soft, limp fabric emits no sound.
Somewhere else, in a workshop in Seville, there was once a small collection of sets and scenery, little compositions made to be used as models for drawings. Depictions that in turn have to be depicted. Later faintly projected as images, these precariously made simulacra falsify their substance, size and scale.
I used to think that the leeway of truth of those squalid ghosts should be less restricted. That I could give the precarious greater solidity by means of an increasingly more intense personal immersion in craft and design. And so, turned into prototypes of objects, subject to use availability, however fanciful it may seem, from that moment onwards my works were contingent on the measure of human substance and its needs: pieces of furniture, tools, trinkets and musical instruments.
In this new game, reason and imagination were mingled together, transformed into the ironic foundation of my elements, of my hypothetical things. That being said, their ultimate futility was not purely aesthetic, given that solving simple problems in a complex way, subjecting materials to demands running counter to their nature, or allowing the whims, stringencies and accidents of logic to define their being at the expense of their correct functioning, were different modes of research into form, function, materials and their never-ending transmogrification, revisiting ideals and utopias dangling on the horizon of any era.
Throughout all this process, geometry gradually took on the weight of law.
It was the language of design, its way of applying method to the operation, its way of making things comprehensible to other artifices that might collude in the making of the pieces. Suddenly, everything was modulated or inscribed in ideal regular figures, or subject to proportion and harmony. This opened another door, using graphic conjectures to address a whole plethora of human concerns: the representation of the figure, of the features that define it and delimit its scope and its fate, language, music… To start with, it was not a case of just leaving geometry to its own abstract devices, but of using it as a way of demonstrating and giving an account of all those other tangible and impure realities.
The end result of this whole work of coding, of translating, of searching for equivalences is ultimately inconclusive. With respect to its initial reference, it was almost like a mirror blinded by the very likeness of the reflection. A wayward reflection, hanging around a room, waiting for its counterpart.
Absentmindedly absorbed in assembling the pieces and in drawing diagrams, all of a sudden my body lost part of its being, of its reality, because the passing of time could only be measured in things. This distraction was offset by the chance to work with other bodies, completely engrossed in dance, who only grew in certainty in my eyes. Materials cast off their weight, tasks were lessened: a few cuts here and there created the volume of a head, a chest, a foreleg and, furthermore, mimicked their movements. So, for the first time, this protean, almost reflex ritual of mine, which an unsuspecting spectator might have witnessed in the studio had they paid attention, finds a graceful, perfectly finished and definitive correspondence that takes place on stage. Yet that other ritual did not leave behind an object. The final metamorphosis comes over the dancer, a changing figure, in the form of silence and coming to a standstill. The contingencies of the form that covers them and of the movement they make must be captured somehow, in a video recording or, yet again, in a drawing.
On the square stage, no sound can be heard. Whether now or hundreds of years ago, the effort would be equally futile. But the precision of the performers’ movements endeavours to revive it, night after night. It is of the same species as the other things that fill these rooms we are now opening to the public: just like the usefulness of the instrument, the number of the diagram or my own being. An unwavering effort and a thwarted echo.
Like a serge drum.
_José Miguel Pereñíguez.